When Pastor Jorma Jormakka arrived in Australia on Christmas Eve, 1968, not in his wildest dreams could he have imagined that one day he would be standing next to the Finnish ambassador, about to receive one of Finland’s highest honours.
Back in 1968, Jorma wasn’t a pastor but worked with his hands, first in the mines at Mt Isa, and then in the construction industry, in Brisbane. In 1972 he married a Finnish girl, Marjatta, who had also emigrated to Australia. God blessed them with two children, Paula and Peter.
Though Jorma may have left Finland, his ties with his homeland remained strong. He was heavily involved in the Finnish church in Mt Isa, then in Brisbane. It was from there that God called Jorma to become a pastor, and the Jormakka family made their home in Adelaide while Jorma studied at Luther Seminary. Pastor Jormakka’s first parish was in Freeling in rural South Australia. From there he was called to serve as Executive Pastor of the Suomi Conference. He pastored the St Henrik’s Finnish Church in West Pymble, Sydney, from 1992–2000, and then moved south to Melbourne to the Mikael Agricola congregation in Heidelberg.
Pastor Jormakka retired in mid-2014, having spent 22 years overseeing the Finnish Lutheran community in Australia. News of his invaluable contribution reached all the way to Helsinki, and the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, granted him the Cross of Merit of the Order of the Lion of Finland.
On 27 November, the Finnish ambassador to Australia, Mr Pasi Patokallio, presented the honour to Pastor Jormakka. Fittingly, this took place at the Finnish church centre in Heidelberg, in the presence of many community members.
Pastor Jormakka was typically modest in response to the ambassador’s commendation of his service. He noted that he always erred on the side of grace, perhaps because he had needed it more than others. He said, ‘I’ve endeavoured to show that mercy to others. I’ve tried to meet every person on a human level as equal, both of us sinners before Christ.’ Nevertheless, he acknowledged that it was nice to be appreciated.
Pastor Jormakka and Marjatta are enjoying retirement life in Maryborough, central Victoria.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland has over four million members, about three-quarters of the population.
Andrew Brook is Assistant Bishop of Victoria/ Tasmania and senior pastor of St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Box Hill, Victoria. He attended the investiture ceremony as an official representative of the Lutheran Church of Australia.